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Monday, February 1, 2016

The Myth Of Mar Roxas, And The Philippine BPO Industry

Nobody ever said, “When I grow up, I want to work in a call center.” Everyone is saying “I want to be a pilot, a ballerina, a soldier, a doctor, a teacher, an engineer, a therapist, a model, a magician, a dentist, a scientist,” and any other profession not named “call center agent.” [*]

The latest load of garbage floating around Facebook. Has been this crap about 2016 Presidential aspirant, Mar Roxas, being the so-called “Father of the Philippine BPO industry.” Let me give some of you a little of what I call, Insider information.
The so-called BPO industry had already landed here in early 1996. And by the early 2000’s, saw itself become more entrenched. Especially since India had lost its legendary hold on it. And one of the reasons was their very intense accent. While this may not sound like a bad thing to some. Many Americans – after a few years – began questioning, “Why, whenever I call a service line. Be it everything from my credit card, to a computer, and everything in-between. There always seems to be a Hindu on the other end of the line?” Over time, the big corporations began getting curious feedback. This prompted them to start looking at the “why” about it.
They had reached the conclusion, most Americans felt more comfortable with a “voice of their own” on the other end of the line. And along the way, this was where the Philippines came in.
From a western perspective. Filipinos don’t have much of a noticeable accent in their voices. Especially with English itself. Almost ALL Europeans have one. As well as most Asians. And most will not argue this statement as being anything but true.

AT&T, JP Morgan, Chase and Expedia, all use Philippine call centers.
AT&T, JP Morgan, Chase and Expedia, all use Philippine call centers.

Then comes the classic, money game of less overhead. Which of course, is salary first. And then the vested costs. Such as building space rental. As well as infrastructure. An so on. Now here is where it gets interesting. All this is at possible risk in the next few years. And for a number of reasons.
First. Voice and data infrastructure. The Philippines has let theirs fall apart over the last 8 years. This is obvious, since all one has to do, is look at the endless array of domestic customer dissatisfaction.
Second. Alternative locations are now already being considered. South Africa. Poland. Estonia. And even Czechoslovakia. Are filling the need as the “new and improved” corporate hot spots for this market. Primarily because of their more solid voice and data infrastructure. As well as offering a more competitive, open door business environment.
Mar Roxas Crossed ArmsAnd lastly. The biggest possible nail in the industry’s coffin. Automation. By reducing the need for a “live body” on the other end. Many analysts believe in the next 3 to 5 years. Call centers, especially in the offshore sense. Along with the typewriter. May very likely become just another relic of the past.
Sad story. And on many levels, is filled with truth. It’s this writers personal benefit of being directly involved with the state side banking and IT portions of that industry. Which for me. Dates back to 1994.
So while he may have pushed the “Make IT Philippines” promotional idea in 2003. Whatever direct hand Mar Roxas had in the grand scheme of things, if any. At best, was minimal.
[*By Carla Custodio, Makati City

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